ERIC Identifier: ED449120
Publication Date: 2000-10-00
Author: Ferraro, Joan M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Reflective Practice and Professional Development. ERIC Digest.
Reflective practice can be a beneficial process in teacher professional
development, both for pre-service and in-service teachers. This digest reviews
the concept, levels, techniques for, and benefits of reflective practice.
REFINING THE CONCEPT
In 1987, Donald Schon introduced the
concept of reflective practice as a critical process in refining one's artistry
or craft in a specific discipline. Schon recommended reflective practice as a
way for beginners in a discipline to recognize consonance between their own
individual practices and those of successful practitioners. As defined by Schon,
reflective practice involves thoughtfully considering one's own experiences in
applying knowledge to practice while being coached by professionals in the
discipline (Schon, 1996).
After the concept of reflective practice was introduced by Schon, many
schools, colleges, and departments of education began designing teacher
education and professional development programs based on this concept. As the
concept grew in popularity, some researchers cautioned that SCDEs that
incorporated reflective practice in their teacher education programs were
focusing on the process of reflective practice while sacrificing important
content in teacher education (Clift et al, 1990). These researchers recommended
that reflective teaching combine John Dewey's philosophy on the moral,
situational aspects of teaching with Schon's process for a more contextual
approach to the concept of reflective practice.
More recently, Boud and Walker (1998) also noted shortcomings in the way
SCDEs were applying Schon's concept of reflective practice to teacher education.
They took issue with what they considered to be a "checklist" or "reflection on
demand" mentality, reflection processes with no link to conceptual frameworks, a
failure to encourage students to challenge teaching practices, and a need for
personal disclosure that was beyond the capacity of some young teachers. Boud
and Walker suggest that these weaknesses can be addressed when the
teacher-coaches create an environment of trust and build a context for
reflection unique to every learning situation.
Reflective practice has also been defined in terms of action research. Action
research, in turn, is defined as a tool of curriculum development consisting of
continuous feedback that targets specific problems in a particular school
setting (Hopkins & Antes, 1990). As such, it has become a standard concept
in teacher education programs. The teacher educator as researcher and role model
encourages students to put theories they've learned into practice in their
classrooms. The students bring reports of their field experiences to class and
analyze their teaching strategies with their mentors and colleagues. This
collaborative model of reflective practice enriches students' personal
reflections on their work and provides students with suggestions from peers on
how to refine their teaching practices (Syrjala, 1996).
LEVELS OF REFLECTIVE PRACTICE
Reflective practice is used
at both the pre-service and in-service levels of teaching. Coaching and peer
involvement are two aspects of reflective practice seen most often at the
pre-service level. In a 1993 study of how student teachers develop the skills
necessary for reflective teaching during their field experiences, Ojanen
explores the role of the teacher educator as coach. Teacher educators can most
effectively coach student teachers in reflective practice by using students'
personal histories, dialogue journals, and small and large-group discussions
about their experiences to help students reflect upon and improve their
Kettle and Sellars (1996) studied the development of third- year teaching
students. They analyzed the students' reflective writings and interviewed them
extensively about their reflective practices. They found that the use of peer
reflective groups encouraged student teachers to challenge existing theories and
their own preconceived views of teaching while modeling for them a collaborative
style of professional development that would be useful throughout their teaching
At the level of in-service teaching, studies have shown that critical
reflection upon experience continues to be an effective technique for
professional development. Licklider's review of adult learning theory (1997)
found that self-directness -- including self-learning from experience in natural
settings -- is an important component of adult learning. Therefore, effective
teacher professional development should involve more than occasional large-group
sessions; it should include activities such as study teams and peer coaching in
which teachers continuously examine their assumptions and practices.
Serving as a coach or mentor to peers is another form of reflective practice
for in-service teachers. Uzat (1998) presents coaching as a realistic and
systematic approach to ongoing teacher improvement through focused reflection on
teaching methods. Uzat also relates the concept of coaching to self-efficacy:
Teachers' beliefs that they affect students' lives as well as the school
motivate them intrinsically to grow.
INCORPORATING REFLECTION INTO PRACTICE
There are many
successful techniques for investing teaching practice with reflection. Some of
these have been mentioned above, including action research. Action research
conducted in teacher education programs can be designed to engage the reflective
participation of both pre-service and in-service teachers. Rearick (1997)
describes the benefits of this activity for both groups, as well as for the
teacher educator, as used in a professional development project at the
University of Hartford. In this project, experienced teachers identified
knowledge, thinking, and problem-solving techniques and decision-making
processes they used in designing instruction for language arts curricula. Based
on these discussions, a pre-service course agenda for teaching reading and
writing was developed. Students taking the course developed portfolios,
conducting their own action research in the process. These students also formed
a critical learning community, developed modes of inquiry, and shared their
diverse ways of valuing, knowing, and experiencing.
A review of current research indicates that portfolio development has become
a favorite tool used in pre-service teacher education (Antonek, et al, 1997;
Hurst et al, 1998). Portfolios encourage beginning teachers to gather in one
place significant artifacts representing their professional development. They
assemble materials that document their competencies. Portfolios include a
reflective component, for when the teacher decides which materials to include,
he or she must reflect on which teaching practices worked well and why (Hurst et
al, 1998). The portfolios are modified at points throughout a teacher's career,
as the teacher continues to apply learning to practice.
Furthermore, new performance-based assessments for teachers developed by the
Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) include the
use of portfolios. These are based on the National Board for Professional
Teaching Standards (NBPTS) model that enables teachers to demonstrate how their
teaching relates to student learning (Weiss & Weiss, 1998).
Participation in some professional development institutes can also be a way
to incorporate reflection into practice. Professional development programs need
not always focus on specific teaching methods and strategies; they can also
focus on teacher attitudes that affect practice. Wilhelm et al (1996) describe
the curriculum of a professional development institute that offers teacher
interns an opportunity to explore attitudes, develop management skills, and
reflect on the ethical implications of practice in classrooms with cultural
compositions vastly different from their previous experiences. By its nature,
this kind of professional development institute causes teachers to step back and
critically reflect not only on how they teach, but also on why they teach in a
BENEFITS OF REFLECTION IN PRACTICE
The primary benefit of
reflective practice for teachers is a deeper understanding of their own teaching
style and ultimately, greater effectiveness as a teacher. Other specific
benefits noted in current literature include the validation of a teacher's
ideals, beneficial challenges to tradition, the recognition of teaching as
artistry, and respect for diversity in applying theory to classroom practice.
Freidus (1997) describes a case study of one teacher/graduate student struggling
to make sense of her beliefs and practices about what constitutes good teaching.
Her initial pedagogy for teaching was based on the traditions and practices of
direct teaching. Her traditional socialization into teaching made it difficult
for her to understand that her views of good teaching were being challenged in
her practice. But the opportunity for exploration through reflective portfolio
work enabled her to acknowledge and validate what she was learning.
Research on effective teaching over the past two
decades has shown that effective practice is linked to inquiry, reflection, and
continuous professional growth (Harris 1998). Reflective practice can be a
beneficial form of professional development at both the pre-service and
in-service levels of teaching. By gaining a better understanding of their own
individual teaching styles through reflective practice, teachers can improve
their effectiveness in the classroom.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 900 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
Antonek, J.L., et al. (1997) The student teacher portfolio as autobiography:
Developing a professional identity. Modern Language Journal, 81(1), 15-27. EJ
Boud, D. & Walker, D. (1998). Promoting reflection in professional
courses: The challenge of context. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 191-206.
EJ 570 398
Clarke, A. (1995). Professional development in practicum settings: Reflective
practice under scrutiny. Teaching & Teacher Education, 11(3), 243-61. EJ 510
Clift, R.T., Houston, W.R., & Pugach, M.C., eds. (1990). Encouraging
reflective practice in education: An analysis of issues and programs. New York:
Teachers College Press.
Freidus, H. (1997). The telling of story: Teachers knowing what they know.
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research
Association (AERA), Chicago, IL. ED 409 274
Harris, A. (1998). Effective teaching: A review of the literature. School
Leadership & Management, 18(2), 169-183. EJ 563 868
Hopkins, C. D., & Antes, R.L. (1990). Educational research: A structure
for inquiry. 3rd Ed. Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock.
Hurst, B., Wilson C., & Cramer, G. (1998). Professional teaching
portfolios. Phi Delta Kappan, 79(8), 578-82. EJ 563 868
Kettle B., & Sellars, N. (1996). The development of student teachers
practical theory of teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 12(1), 1-24. EJ
Licklider, B.L. (1997). Breaking ranks: Changing the in-service institution.
NASSP Bulletin, 81(Jan.), 9-22. EJ 539 052
Ojanen, S. (1993). A process in which personal pedagogical knowledge is
created through the teacher education experience. Paper presented at the
International Conference in Teacher Education, Tel-Aviv, Israel. ED 398 200
Rearick, M.L. (1997). Educational researchers, practitioners, and students of
teaching reflect on experience, practice, and theories: Action research in a
pre-service course. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association (AERA), Chicago, IL. ED 412 229
Schon, D.A. (1996). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new
design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
Syrjala, L. (1996). The teacher as a researcher. In Childhood Education:
International Perspectives. Ed. Eeva Hujala. Finland: Association for Childhood
Education International, Oulu University. ED 403 069
Uzat, S.L. (1998). Cognitive coaching and self-reflection: Looking in the
mirror while looking through the window. Paper presented at the annual meeting
of the Mid-South Educational Research Association. New Orleans, LA. ED 427 064
Weiss, E.M. & Weiss, S.G. (1998). New directions in teacher evaluation.
Washington, DC: ERIC Digest, ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher
Wilhelm, R.W., Coward, M.F., and Hume, L. M. (1996). The effects of a
professional development institute on pre-service teachers' perceptions of their
intercultural knowledge and diversity. Teacher Educator, 32(1), 48-61. ED 533